Success as a writer

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.


SEPTEMBER QUESTION: How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

MY ANSWER: I guess success is different for everyone. For me, success is huge. Ilona Andrews is a success as a writer. Lois McMaster Bujold is a success. They have made it into the big league.  I – not so much. I did have a number of my short stories published in magazines and anthologies. And a couple of novels. I even won an award for one of my novels. I do have an income from my work as a journalist. Small income, but I think it counts. But overall, am I a successful professional writer? I don’t think so. I don’t have millions of fans buying my every book. It feels more like a hobby that is edging into the professional territory. But it gives me joy to make up my own stories and write them down in the best English I can. So, no complaints. What about you?

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WEP Aug 2021 – Freedom of Speech

Here is my entry for the August 2021 WEP challenge, Freedom of Speech. It is a new adventure of the Space Fleet Academy cadet Neville. You can read about Neville’s previous escapades here:

Feb 2021 – The Kiss

Apr 2021 – Freedom Morning

Jun 2021 – Great Wave  


On the recording, a young man, no older than Neville, crept along a seldom-used corridor in the D section of the ship. Today marked the fifth day of this trip to Simel, and Neville had been watching this particular fellow since day one. For some reason, his behavior had struck Neville as suspicious from the beginning. He had even made sure to learn the guy’s name – Timothy – from the ship’s manifest.

That first evening, Neville had assigned one of his tiny surveillance drones to follow Timothy because he didn’t have time himself. All seven sleeping holds of the ship were his responsibility, as the captain’s liaison with the passengers, and the thousands of passengers aboard had kept him busy.

This morning, he finally allocated the time to watch the recordings of the previous three days. His suspicions deepened. Timothy went to the same place, far away from his sleeping hold, every day at different times. Oddly, on all three days, the recordings stopped as soon as its subject reached the D5 block. No sleeping hold was close. It was an area of the ship reserved for loading equipment. Lots of little nooks and hiding places among the odd-shaped machinery.  

What was Timothy doing there? Alone? Why did the recordings stop? They resumed a couple hours later each day and faithfully followed their charge back to his sleeping berth. But what happened during those missing hours? Obviously, someone jammed the recordings, but why? And who? Was Timothy a part of some secret society? Secret meetings?

Neville frowned in thought. Today, he would follow Timothy himself and see what he could find. Hastily, he programmed the drone to alert him as soon as his interest left his hold. Then he dived into the passengers’ activity for the day.

At about fifteen hundred hours, his drone buzzed in his ear bug. “Oh, feckle!” Neville muttered. He was in the middle of an argument with an old woman in the B section hold about her missing hairdryer.

“Sorry, ma’am,” he interrupted her in mid-tirade. “We’ll talk later. I must run.”

He sped on his silent roller skates out of the hold towards the D5 block. He didn’t follow Timothy but took an alternative route along the service level passageways above, inaccessible to passengers. He would drop down to the main level when he was close to his destination. And do what? Confront Timothy? Spy on him further?

His drone was still recording and sending the signal to Neville’s receiving goggles. It cut the recording in the same place it had done on the previous three occasions – in the D5 block.

Breathing shallowly, Neville checked his stunner gun. He didn’t plan on any stunner fight, but it didn’t hurt to be prepared. He didn’t want to confront Timothy and his associates. He could be severely outnumbered, but he needed to discover what was going on.

He removed his roller blades, unscrewed one of the floor panels with blue markings, and weaseled into a ventilation tube. Such tubes snaked between the levels all over the ship. He crawled along the cramped space, turning several times, until he reached the point in D5 where the recording stopped a few minutes earlier.

He listened – no sound came from below. He carefully pried open a panel under his head and looked down. No one was there, and his drone was gone. Where did it go? Neville scanned the area. It was a long and narrow storage, stuffed with strange contraptions. In the far end of the long and twisted hallway, a hatch loomed. By his schematics of the ship, that hatch led to the block E3. He winced at the weirdness of the numbering system in the ship, replaced his spying panel, and scurried towards E3 along his ventilation pipe.

He heard voices even before he detached another panel to hear better. Unwilling to attract hostile attention, he didn’t remove this panel but shifted it a bit, to allow a narrow gap in the ceiling of another storage.

In addition to the usual clutter of a technical depot, this storage also held about a couple dozen men, mostly middle-aged, with a few youngsters sprinkled about. Neville spied Timothy, sitting on a large loader.    

“We need to take control of the ship,” a gray-haired burly man declared.

“Should we talk about this?” someone asked timidly.

“Yes, we should. Our freedom of speech is guaranteed.” The orator pumped his fist in the air. “We are free men. We shouldn’t be obliged to obey a woman just because someone somewhere put her in charge. Captain, my ass! Women are inferior to us. Of course, they have their uses.” He smirked. “But not captaining a spaceship. Not our ship!”

A loud cheer met the last statement.

Neville’s drone, a mini oblong of sheer plastic filled with grayish circuitry, was invisible beneath the gray steel ceiling. It was still active, but the signal was jammed. These pirates planned a mutiny and jammed everything as a matter of course.

Neville listened with growing dread, as the speaker outlined their plan, to be implemented two days before they docked at Simel orbital station. They didn’t want to go to Simel. They didn’t want to be refugees. They were an elite group of men, formerly rich and powerful, and they felt entitled to good life, not common refugee struggles.  

Neville’s lips twisted in disgust. They might’ve been rich before the disaster destroyed their planet. Now they were like everyone else and should’ve been grateful to Simel government for giving them a home. Instead, they planned mutiny and piracy and spoke dismissively of his captain.

Neville swallowed his curses and quietly replaced the panel over his spyhole. He needed to get out of here and contact the captain. He doubted his wrist-comm would transmit any better than the drone. Unable to turn around in the narrow shaft, he had to crawl backwards. As soon as he could, he climbed out of his ventilation duct, typed the code for the captain’s station, and brought his wrist-comm to his mouth.

“Captain,” he said quietly. “There is a mutiny being planned in block E3. Could you segregate it from the rest of the ship? There are about twenty men down there. And they’re jamming the signal from my drone. No proof recordings, but I heard them.”

Captain Moss’s answering tirade contained all the swear words Neville longed to spew. He reveled in it, while she turned from the vid camera to do something on her main control board. “Done,” she said a moment later. “Blithering idiots! I hate mutineers. They’ll regret their stupidity. I just stopped heating that section.” She cackled gleefully. “Report to the bridge for the full debriefing, cadet. Good catch.”

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A vigilante or a murderer

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.


AUGUST QUESTION: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something, or you are inspired to write, or try the new technique. And why?

MY ANSWER: I’ve never read any of the writing textbooks more than once, even the best ones. But I re-read my favorite fiction authors regularly, and every time I do, I learn something new. When I know exactly how the book ends, I pay more attention to the way the author handles dialog or scenes, pacing or tension. I consider good fiction the best writing books out there.


Speaking of fiction, I recently re-read Sharon Shinn’s The Turning Season, a quiet and thoughtful book. Like many works by this author, it raised some hard questions. One of the questions touched me deeply: who has the right to kill? A soldier sanctioned by the government? Obviously, YES. A policeman – ditto. But what if the government doesn’t care about a certain segment of the population, doesn’t protect them? Who has the right to kill in their defense? Who can protect them? And if someone (a character named Ryan) appointed himself to the role of the protector, is he a hero or a criminal?

Personally, I lean towards Ryan being a hero. But many of the novel’s characters wouldn’t accept his killing, even though he doesn’t kill to get money or power for himself. He doesn’t enjoy his killing either. He kills to protect the others, to save lives, and his motive makes all the difference for me. While many characters in the book face a moral dilemma regarding Ryan’s killing or outright condemn him, I don’t have their problem. I cheer for Ryan.

Maybe because I lived half of my life in the Soviet Russia, a totalitarian state, I don’t trust a government, any government. In most cases, it is not my friend, even though I now live in Canada, one of the best democratic countries in the world. I’d still trust a vigilante before I’d trust any government. After all, we all admire X-men and Batman and Spiderman, don’t we? They kill the bad guys, and everyone rejoices. Why would Shinn’s characters denounce an identical behavior on Ryan’s part?

Just because Ryan doesn’t have a piece of paper signed by a government official, giving him ‘a license to kill,’ it doesn’t make him a villain. In the novel, they call him a murderer. But when a local sheriff kills him in the end of the story, that’s OK. The sheriff did it ‘in the line of duty,’ as was his right, and everyone is fine with that. That hypocritical ending made me long to scream in frustration.

What do you think?


Some unrelated news. My online friend Widdershins just published her fantasy book The Last Dragon in London. I made the cover for her, and you could see my cover everywhere where books are sold. It was a fascinating project for me, and I’m proud of the result. Here it is.

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Write what your know – or not

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.


JULY QUESTION: What would make you quit writing?

MY ANSWER: I would quit writing only if my health prevented me. Otherwise, never. Publishing is another matter. Strangely, it has nothing to do with my health or my writing.


As my answer to this month’s question is extremely short, I want to introduce another topic. You all know the sage advice many a writing guru give you: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. I disagree with it. I’m a speculative fiction writer. I write about magic and spaceships and telepathic squirrels. I don’t know any of it; it’s all imaginary. I make up the details as I go along.

The above adage might be true for contemporary fiction, or for someone writing about the field they specialize in, e.g. a historian writing historical fiction. Or a New Yorker writing a story set in their city. A sideline to this principle would be an in-depth research many historical writers undergo before they set their fiction in a specific place or time. For other genres, like speculative fiction, I’d go with a different maxim: WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO EXPLORE.

When I wanted to explore the world of shapeshifters, I wrote a fantasy story Tail to Treasure about a shapeshifter monkey. It was published in Bloodbond magazine in 2016.

When I wanted to explore the singing crystals, I wrote a science fiction story about them, or rather about a woman who could hear them sing. Here it is – my novella Crystal Song on wattpad. What about you? Do you write what you know or what you wish to discover? Or a variation of both? Tell me in the comments.

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Reaching for ‘The End’

I’ve been working on a science fiction novella for a couple months, and I’m almost done. The pivotal confrontation of my heroine with the bad guys is over. She won. Now I need to tie up several loose ends before the last page, and I’m stumped. I can’t write this final chapter. I need a last splash of action, a small one, but I can’t think of anything.

I’ve read many an epilogue where the authors would just list the upcoming marriages, children, and jobs of the characters before writing ‘The End’ under the last item. I don’t want to do that.

What do you do to finish your stories?  

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WEP Jun 2021 – Great Wave

Here is my entry for the June 2021 WEP Challenge, Great Wave. Neville, a Space Fleet Academy cadet, is serving on the military freighter Mariposa, which carries thousands of refugees from their destroyed colony planet to their new home, the planet Simel. Neville’s duty is being the captain’s liaison with the passengers. I wrote about Neville’s previous adventures here:

Feb 2021 – The Kiss

Apr 2021 – Freedom Morning


Neville was on the bridge for his daily debriefing with the captain when he detected a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye. He spun around. And stared in stupefaction at a great wave of pink … insects? Mice? The tiny creatures – hundreds of them – flowed like a tide from the navigator’s station up the wall, disappearing into the ventilation shaft above the pilot’s chair. The last one lagged behind, sick or lame, before it too escaped into the shaft.  

“I think they did something bad,” Sarni, the navigator, said faintly. “What are those things? I only turned away for one moment, and now my holo screen is blinking. There should be a star map there, but it is just blinking.” Her voice rose to a screech. “Where is my star map? I need to lay a course.”

“Tergio!” Captain Moss bellowed into the intercom for the chief engineer. “Report to the bridge. Find her star map.” Then she glared at Neville. “Cadet! Find those things and destroy them. I don’t allow … pests on my ship.”

“Destroy how?” Neville asked helplessly. “What are they?”

“Find out what they are, where they came from, one of the passengers, no doubt, and kill them,” she yelled. “It’s your job. We can’t have such pestilence on my ship, especially if they eat star maps.” Then she gulped, her cheeks turned pink, almost the same color as the fleeing bugs had been, and she winced. Much calmer, she said: “They probably did something to Sarni’s com-link. They’re a menace if they could do that. Find them, research them, deal with them. I want them off the Mariposa before they damage any more equipment. That’s your priority, cadet.”

“Yes, captain.” Neville swallowed his useless objections.

He collided with Tergio, the chief engineer, as he fled the bridge. Now what? he wondered, stomping towards the passenger holds. He couldn’t ask every passenger in the seven holds about those beetles, could he? Over nine thousand refugees had boarded the Mariposa for this trip to Simel. One of them had obviously smuggled aboard something he shouldn’t have. And then those stowaways escaped. And the Mariposa was a three-kilometer long freighter with tons of old equipment stored everywhere. Argh!

As it happened, he didn’t have to search at all. A short spare man with a mane of auburn hair assaulted him as soon as he crossed to the B section.

“You’re the liaison, aren’t you?” the man demanded with obvious irritation. “Norman or Nathan?”

“Neville,” Neville said. “Yes, I am. Do you have a problem?”

“Yes. You do too. I had a crate of my research arthropods, but someone pried open the lid while I was in the mess hall. They escaped. You need to find them.”

Neville stared. “Pink things?” he murmured. “Like a cross between a bug and a mouse?”

“Yes, yes! Did you see them?”

“Yeah. They just damaged the navigator’s station on the bridge.” Neville struggled to suppress his hysterical laughter. “Instead of displaying her star map, her holo vid screen now blinks. We can’t navigate. The captain ordered me to find and destroy your critters. What are they, anyway?”

“No!” the man cried. “You can’t destroy them. They are my future on Simel. They are priceless.”

“The captain’s orders.” Neville shrugged. “You should’ve had a better lock on that crate of yours.”

“I’ll talk to the captain myself,” the man declared. “I’m Professor Berum. I was the top entomologist on the planet. Lead me to her.”

Neville complied. The entire bridge listened in breathless fascination to the explosive argument between Captain Moss and Professor Berum. At first, the captain was adamant, but in the end, after much pleading and some passionate insults on Berum’s part, she relented and agreed to stay her execution order, if the scientist helped Neville recapture the beasties. Immediately.

Sarni, the navigator, still muttered mutinously, as Berum and Neville left the bridge.

“They are dusters,” Berum explained. “A household might have a family of them, no more than twenty, and they would take care of all the dust, dirt, and dead hair in a house. No need ever to vacuum or dust or even wash the floor.”

Neville, who had often been on cleaning duty at the Academy, grunted an affirmative. “But why pink?”

“To be instantly visible,” Berum said. “Pink is a color rarely used on furniture or walls or floors. I researched.”   

“How do we catch them? What would attract them?”

“Chocolate. I researched that too. It’s one of those universal food staples people brought with them to every human colony in space. They grow cocoa beans everywhere.”

Neville shouted a short laugh. “So we’ll just get a couple of chocolate bars from the mess and go around waving them? Come, dear bugs, here is your treat!”

“We-e-ell,” Berum said weakly.  

They did get chocolates from the mess. Optimistically, Neville installed Berum’s empty crate – the bugs’ abandoned home – on a small float loader to trundle with them, and they started their sweep of the ship. While they walked, Berum told Neville that his millipedes were genetic constructs, created and patented by him. They usually avoided people and worked best in an empty space. “When the owners are at work,” Berum clarified.

It took all day. “I think my dusters want to get to the passenger holds,” Berum speculated. “Lots of dust and dirt for them there, but too many people. They wouldn’t do it.”

Neville was more concerned about the warp drive, but to his relief, they didn’t find any pink varmint there. Eventually, they arrived in engineering, the section Neville avoided all day. By now, even he was tired, and the much-older Berum visibly sagged.

“You!” Tergio snarled. “I have a nasty surprise for your creepy-crawlies, Mister. A perimo pulse. As soon as I finish this pulse emitter.” He lovingly tapped an unfinished gismo on his workbench. “Tomorrow morning at the latest. That would be it for the bugs on the Mariposa. Kaput! Hah!”     

Berum flinched.

“We came to check your section.” Neville shook his head in disapproval. Nothing could be gained by frightening the old scholar.

“Is it chocolate?” Tergio demanded. “For me?” He brightened and stretched his hand for the bar in Neville’s grip. “I love chocolate.”

“It’s for Berum’s bugs.” Neville danced out of reach of Tergio’s fingers.

“Come on!” Tergio growled.

Then a pink wave hit the floor, coming from all directions and flowing towards Neville and Berum. And their chocolates.

“Lovely,” said Neville, watching the bugs scurrying into their crate and forming pink mounds around several chocolate bars inside.

“Gross!” said Tergio.

“My dusters!” Berum cried happily.  

Posted in Olga Godim, WEP, Writing | Tagged , , | 28 Comments

Toss clothes to the floor

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.


This month, I’ll forgo the optional question and instead ask a question of my own. It has been bugging me for a while. You see, I like reading romance novels. In many of them, both historical or contemporary, when the characters are involved in a sex scene, they often throw their clothing to the floor. I wonder why?

In all my life, I’ve never tossed my clothing to the floor. I think it is unsanitary. I understand that the romance heroes, while in the throes of passion, are in the middle of an erotic interlude, their desire rages, their lust is unbridled, yada, yada, yada, but…

Isn’t there a chair in their bedroom? A drawer? A hook on the door? Maybe even a chest in a historical romance. Why can’t they hurl their clothes to any surface but the floor? They just stumbled in from the outside, their shoes are dirty, and they smudge the street dirt all over the floor while engaged in a torrid kiss. Why don’t the drop their clothes on a side table instead of underfoot?

Is it common not only in romance novels but in real life as well? I’ve never done it – I have a special chair beside my bed – but does anyone fling their clothes to the floor when they undress for bed? Or is such weird behavior reserved exclusively for smutty encounters?  

It is an insignificant detail, I know, but please, indulge my curiosity. Tell me in the comments.

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Reading, Romance, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

IWSG – blog posts word count

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
MAY QUESTION: Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn’t expect? If so, did it surprise you?

MY ANSWER: Yes, all the time. It did surprise me the first time I encountered a totally unanticipated reaction, but not anymore.

After my recent foray into the A to Z challenge in April, I’ve been contemplating the optimum length of a blog post. Does it exist? I went to the internet for answers, and Google spit out tons of hits. Here are two that jumped to the top.

Both of them, and some other sites I checked, recommend approximately the same numbers, depending on your ultimate goal as a blogger. If you want more comments, more interactions with your readers, your posts should be 200-600 words. If you want to come up high in Google search, your posts should run to 2,000+ words. Google needs lots of text.

Personally, I prefer to write shorter posts, 300 – 500 words, with one or two images. And as a reader, I also prefer shorter posts. When a post is over 600 words, I become bored. Of course, it also depends on the quality of writing, but even with mediocre writing, I would probably read a shorter post to the end but start skimming a longer post halfway through, and simply close the window if the post is overly long.

It is also about my time. I don’t want to spend too long on reading posts unless the information is too important for me to skip a single word. I think the post falling into the category of HOW TO, manuals of anything from using Photoshop to knitting a patterned shawl should be as long as needed, while personal opinions and journal entries should be short and spiffy.

The only exception to this rule is fiction. When I participate in the flash fiction blog hop WEP, the stories by all the participants are around 1,000 words. We all know it and gladly read each other’s stories in full.

Images also play a role. When a post includes many images on a single theme, I’d probably stay with the post to the end, especially if such posts are not heavy on text. I subscribe to a couple bloggers who post mostly images linked by a common theme. For example: ‘My garden’ or ‘Hot Air Balloon Festival’. I always scan their posts to the end.

But if the images are not connected, I rarely read such posts from top to bottom. Or if there are a glut of images plus several thousand words of text. I really dislike those. They might do well in Google search, but they take too much time to read. Of course, it is a personal preference.

What length of posts are you most comfortable with as a blogger and as a reader? Tell me in the comments.

BTW: this blog post is a little over 500 words. I think it borders on being too long.

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A to Z Challenge – Letter Z

Uph! The last one. For the letter Z, I decided to explore the digital ZONE in this science fiction / futuristic cover.  

What is your vision of a futuristic city? Skyscrapers? A classical suburb? An old-fashioned village? Or a sealed structure containing everything one needs to survive in a landscape no longer fit for human habitation?   

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A to Z Challenge – Letter Y

You wouldn’t think the word YARN fits the speculative fiction genre. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe this cover would do better for a book about knitting. Or maybe the yarn itself is magical. Anyway, for the letter Y, here is my take.

If there was magical yarn, what would it do? What would a sweater made of it do? Would it make you invisible? Would it cure any illness? Or would it turn your skin green?

Posted in A to Z, art, book cover, Olga Godim | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments